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Britain considers government intervention as a gas crisis that roils energy firms

Britain considers government intervention as a gas crisis

September 22, 2021: -The British government is considering bailout loans to help steer energy suppliers through the ongoing gas pricing crisis.

U.K. Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News on Tuesday that “many options” were currently being considered, including potential state-backed loans. However, he suggested not every energy supplier would be eligible to benefit from such a scheme.

“Every year, between five and eight companies exit the market, and I don’t want to prop up failing companies; I don’t want there to be a reward for failure,” he said. “I don’t think we should be throwing taxpayers’ money at companies which, let’s face it, have been badly run.”

Fears that some of Britain’s energy suppliers may struggle to stay afloat have been rising in recent weeks, as wholesale gas prices continue to grow to unprecedented levels across Europe.

On Tuesday, the October gas price at the Dutch TTF hub, a European benchmark for natural gas trading, was volatile, trading just above 74 euros ($86.9) per megawatt-hour by the early afternoon in London. In the previous week, the contract hit a record high of 79 euros per megawatt-hour.

Since January, its value has risen by more than 250%.

The British October gas price was trading lower on Tuesday at around £1.88 per therm, but it continued to hover around recent record highs.

Kwarteng said Tuesday that the U.K. would need to ensure its “Supplier of Last Resort” mechanism — which helps customers transition to a new energy supplier if their current supplier collapses — was made more robust ahead of the winter to ensure a continuous supply of energy.

“It costs a company to absorb up to hundreds of thousands of customers from a company that’s failed, and that may well be a provision for some loan — that’s been discussed,” he told Sky News.

Companies’ financial positions may be considered to evaluate whether they should be granted any potential financial assistance from the government, Kwarteng, who is meeting with some of the U.K.’s smaller energy firms on Tuesday, said.

The U.K.’s sixth-largest energy supplier, Start-up Bulb, is seeking a bailout, while four smaller competitors recently ceased trading, the BBC has reported.

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